Security increased in light of firebombing arrests: Ottawa police
With the Ottawa police chief publicly pondering terrorism charges against three men charged with firebombing a Royal Bank in the Glebe May 18, security officials will step up their presence in the city during the G8 and G20 summits, as well as the upcoming visit from the Queen.
During the investigation that culminated in charges announced on Friday, police say they seized hundreds of rounds of .762 calibre ammunition stored in a box with 50-calibre markings from the house of activist Claude Haridge, 50.
These large-calibre bullets caused grave concern for Ottawa police, said Chief Vern White. Although Haridge and two others were charged with arson and other property-related offences, White said it was quite possible further investigation from the RCMP and the Crown could result in terrorism charges as well.
"They are dangerous. I think these charges are appropriate, and I remain confident with the information that the RCMP and federal Crown are continuing, they (the suspects) may end up with terrorism charges. Because I think that's what this act was," said White.
Lawyer, former professor vouch for suspects' character
Charged are Haridge, Roger Clement, 58, and Matthew Morgan-Brown, 32. Clement and Haridge were also charged with mischief in relation to a Feb. 1 incident where two people were observed smashing in windows and ATMs at a Royal Bank located at 1535 Bank St., Ottawa police said.
Two of the three men attended a political activism course taught by former University of Ottawa professor Denis Rancourt, who told CTV Ottawa he will be an "assurity" in future court appearances for his past students.
"He was very likeable, warm, sincere, (and) contributed," Rancourt recalled of Haridge, one of the students in his class. He added that criminal charges "doesn't jive with that picture at all."
When speaking with reporters on Saturday morning, lawyer Lawrence Greenspon said previous police comments calling the incident an "act of terrorism" did not help the case of his client, Clement.
"Pre-trial comments that attempt to characterize offences are not helpful to the administration of justice," he said.
Security worries at summits
White previously called the May 18 firebombing of the bank an act of "domestic terrorism." The group that claimed responsibility for the incident, Fighting for Freedom Coalition Ottawa, proclaimed themselves as anarchists and also said they would "be there" during the G8 and G20 summits in Huntsville, Ont. and Toronto at the end of this month.
A massive security fence has already been erected around the G20 summit location in downtown Toronto, and there are worries that with the presence of China's president that attacks by protestors could grow ugly. Security costs are approaching $1 billion.
As of yet, the three charged face a variety of property and mischief offences:
- Clement is charged with arson causing damage, possession of incendiary material and use of explosives with intent to cause property damage. He is being represented by Greenspon, who is best known for representing Mohamad Momin Khawaja, the first person found guilty under the Canadian Anti-Terrorism Act. Clement will appear in court on Monday.
- Morgan-Brown is charged with mischief, arson causing damage, possession of incendiary material and use of explosives with intent to cause property damage. He will appear on Friday.
- Hardige is charged with careless storage and handling of ammunition and failing to comply with undertaking. He will appear in court on Monday.
With a report from CTV Ottawa's Karen Soloman, and files from Kristy Kirkup